Alex Yudzon, A Room for the Night @Rick Wester

JTF (just the facts): A total of 12 black-and-white and color photographs, framed in brown wood and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space, as well as in the entry and office areas.

The following works are included in the show:

  • 9 archival pigment prints, 2019, 2021, sized 45×36 inches, in editions of 2+2AP
  • 3 archival pigment prints, 2019, 2021, sized 20×16 inches, in editions of 4+2AP

A monograph of this body of work was published in 2023 by Radius Books (here). Hardcover, 12 x 9.75 inches, 128 pages, with 54 reproductions. Includes texts by the artist and an artist interview conducted by Sharon Core. (Cover shot below.)

Comments/Context: To make a somewhat reaching artistic parallel, a modestly forgettable American hotel room is something akin a blank canvas. Once the rent has been paid and the key has been handed over, its anonymous public space becomes temporarily private and personal, and inside the confines of its walls, its inhabitants can essentially do what they want, within some loosely enforced limits. Most hotel rooms are simply seen as places to stop for the night, their predictable facilities used by visitors to wash up, sleep, store their belongings, and maybe even do some work or grab a bite to eat. But of course, hotel rooms are needed for countless other reasons, from corporate meetings, vacations, and longer stays between other housing options to romantic encounters, hiding out, and even illicit dealings. An empty hotel room is the convenient vessel for an astonishing array of potential activities, some of them, at least in Alex Yudzon’s case, even artistic.

For roughly the past decade, Yudzon has been traveling around the United States, renting hotel rooms in some thirty-four states (and counting). At each hotel or motel, Yudzon rents what he hopes might be an interesting room (his inquiries about decor and amenities perhaps raising some questions about his intentions), and then settles in for the night. During his stay, he disassembles whatever furniture and other objects are provided in the room and then rearranges them into a temporary sculpture in that same space, which he then proceeds to photograph. Before he departs, he puts the room back in order, leaving little or no trace of his site-specific artistic efforts. In each case, Yudzon limits himself to the contents of the room, and constructs (and deconstructs) his installations by himself, without the help of anyone else.

Conceptually, Yudzon’s project fits into a number of potential artistic traditions. His hotel room installations could be considered physical interventions in the space, in the manner of Gordon Matta-Clark’s cuts and holes in architecture. His efforts could be seen as more performative or theatrical, like various Fluxus events. Or his sculptures could be seen as room-sized still lifes coming in a long line of improvised sculpture building (especially those with limited access to materials), finding connection to the works of Peter Fischli/David Weiss and Erwin Wurm, and more recently to those of Lorenzo Vitturi and Csilla Klenyánszki. And of course, if we step back from his interventions, Yudzon’s photographs can fall into line with countless others documenting the mundane charms of suburban American motel and hotel rooms.

Working in both black-and-white and in color, Yudzon is to some extent at the mercy of the “laboratory of creativity” provided by his constrained surroundings. In a few cases, he has opted for a single bold intervention, staging an upended striped sofa in the middle of a bed, or placing a mattress atop a stairway railing or centered within the geometric niche of an archway. In others, he has gone for a more maximalist approach, creating tumbling piles of cluttered cushions and furniture that spill into the rooms like waterfalls and seemingly risk multiplying further and filling them to the ceiling.

In between, Yudzon finds a tenuous balance between precision and precariousness, with furniture stacked into tight assemblages. When seen from one side, many of these constructions vaguely resemble Minimalist compositions, where camera-flattened geometries are organized into larger interlocked forms. A stinging blast of flash lights most of these setups, creating a secretive crime scene mood, particularly in black-and-white; in color, this brightness pulls out the textures of polyester upholstery, velour, and linoleum, giving the images a kind of seething vibrancy. In two other rooms, Yudzon got lucky – with one room decorated with bold black and white checkerboards and parallelograms, the contrasts of which he amplified further by stacking the furniture near the patterned curtains, and another featuring mirrors and blue mood lights, where he created a tower of mini-fridge, microwave, and bedside table, each with its doors yawned open, horror movie-style.

Part of the draw found in Yudzon’s project is seeing it as an iterative artistic exercise, where each hotel visit forces an improvised solution crafted within particular (and inherently unpredictable) limits. A classic American road trip, of which we have seen many in the history of photography, then becomes a series of artistic tests, each new room requiring Yudzon to problem solve in a different way. A turn through the gallery (or a flip through the related photobook) is therefore a diary or journal of sorts, of places visited, people met, and thorny aesthetic (and practical) issues overcome.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced at $8500 and $3500 each, based on size. Yudzon’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Send this article to a friend

Read more about: Alex Yudzon, Rick Wester Fine Art, Radius Books

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Auction Results: Fine Photographs, May 16, 2024 @Swann

Auction Results: Fine Photographs, May 16, 2024 @Swann

Two $100K+ outcomes for Cindy Sherman and Dorothea Lange prints led the way at the recent Fine Photographs sale at Swann last week in New York. With an overall Buy-In ... Read on.

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter